Sixteen council areas move to lower level of coronavirus restrictions from Friday
All 11 council areas currently living under level four coronavirus rules will move down to level three from Friday, while five other local authorities will also see the easing of restrictions.
Nicola Sturgeon said the infection rate in all the areas moving down a tier have fallen since the restrictions were put in place.
Inverclyde, Falkirk and Angus will move from level three to two, while Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders will move to level one from Friday.
Edinburgh remains in tier three, despite reports that Public Health Scotland had advised the Scottish Government that the capital had met all the criteria for being moved down.
The First Minister said she had “looked very closely” at Edinburgh, which is currently recording 68 cases per 100,000 people – below the Scotland-wide figure of 99 – and also has “relatively low” test positivity levels.
But she said the “imminence of the Christmas period” had an impact on the government’s thinking.
“A move to level two in Edinburgh, would mean opening up significantly more service,” she said.
“That move would carry significant risk of increased transmission. For that reason, we want as much assurance as possible that the situation is as stable as possible before making that move.
“For that reason we have decided not to move Edinburgh to level two this week, but we will consider this again next week for both Edinburgh and Midlothian.”
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader, said it was a “bitter, bitter pill” for those businesses unable to operate in the run up to Christmas because of fears they might become too busy.
In her address to parliament, Sturgeon said the changes will take place from 6pm on Friday, except for retail premises which have been closed under the level four restrictions. These shops will be allowed to reopen at 6am to manage the flow of customers after the period of closure.
The First Minister acknowledged the toll the restrictions and closures have taken on businesses and said the Finance Secretary will set out a further package of business support on Wednesday.
She also stated that travel restrictions would remain in place, meaning people living in level three areas – or level four until Friday – are unable to travel outwith their local authority area except for specific purposes.
Sturgeon told Holyrood that with the first COVID vaccines being administered, today marked “a milestone we have longed for”, adding: “This is a good day”.
But she insisted there was still no room for complacency, as she outlined the latest coronavirus statistics, which showed the total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 692, bringing the total number to 101,475.
She also announced that in the last 24 hours, a further 33 deaths have been registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
The First Minister said: “The total number of deaths, under this measure, is now 3,950.
“These figures remind us once again of the toll this virus continues to take, right across Scotland. Once again, my deepest condolences go to all those who have lost a loved one."